The portrayal of waste-to-energy (WTE) development in the Canadian news media remains largely unexplored in spite of its growing relevance to municipal waste management strategies. This research takes an inductive approach to examine how WTE is portrayed in Canadian newspapers through both content and discourse analyses. Initial analyses may focus specifically on portrayal of WTE in Ontario where our case study work is being conducted. We aim to shed light on the policy making processes associated with realizing waste’s potential for energy generation by exploring the dominant themes, narratives, and discursive strategies employed by various stakeholders as well as the evolution of ideas as they evolve over time in the news media. This study will contribute mainly to project objective 2, but also to objectives 1 and 4.
For the content analysis, Canadian newspapers will be searched using Factiva, Lexis-Nexis, Canadian Newsstand and similar databases from the first available publication on WTE to present day. The aim is to provide a comprehensive overview of WTE coverage in the news media, including the names and types of newspapers; types of WTE discussed; temporal and spatial trends in coverage (e.g., places with high coverage); types of articles written; context of articles (e.g., type of WTE event); main themes (e.g., barriers to implementation, community incineration concerns); stakeholders cited (e.g., municipal official, resident); and stakeholder positions on WTE. The output of this work will be largely quantitative focused on frequencies, tables and charts.
The discourse analysis will go into more depth to identify the dominant ideas, representations and narratives associated with WTE (e.g. as a resource, hazard or waste management solution). This part of the research will examine: how ideas, representations and narratives have changed over time, including support and opposition; how they compare between regions; and their implications for WTE uptake. Whereas the content analysis focuses on surface content and keywords, the discourse analysis will be much more interpretive and focused on conceptual development.
The purpose of this work is to give a sense of the "lay of the land" in terms of how waste-to-energy is being portrayed in the media. The work will be of interest to a wide array of waste policy actors including: waste managers, sustainability advocates, politicians, residents and academics. By understanding the processes and structures that have shaped existing decisions we hope to enhance dialogue and highlight routes for more sustainable decision-making and practices around waste and energy. Further, this research will make substantive contributions to the geographies of waste literature and theoretical development listed in project objective 4.